Agedashi is a classic of the Japanese repertoire — tofu dusted in katakuriko, or potato starch, and fried so it’s crisp on the outside, warm and custardy inside. That’s the "age" part. "Dashi" is fish stock made from dried bonito flakes, which is the basis of the sauce served over and under the tofu.
It’s a fairly simple cooking project, although it does involve deep-frying, which scares some people, and a trip to the Asian aisle of the grocery store if your pantry isn’t stocked with Japanese staples.
Jorgen Walk emailed from Salt Lake City asking for instructions. "I absolutely love it. We have a Japanese restaurant here in Salt Lake City called Kyoto with agedashi on their menu, and I always order it, no matter what else I am ordering for dinner."
A basic recipe follows. It calls for making your own dashi — really, just konbu (kelp), katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and water. You can buy packets of dashi soup base that dissolve in water, but homemade stock is much lower in sodium and cleaner in flavor. And it’s so simple, if you can boil water and move a pot on and off a burner, you can do it.
Note that I am suggesting you use firm tofu. This is because it is easier to handle that soft tofu, but once you have the technique down, you could graduate to the soft version, which is more traditional.
Also, this recipe can be adjusted to individual tastes. Some people add a little sugar to the sauce, or some heat in the form of chili pepper sauce. You can also add more vegetables —thinly sliced bell peppers (any color, or a mix of colors) would be a nice touch. Grated daikon is often used as a garnish, in addition to the green onion and bonito flakes suggested here.
20-ounce block firm tofu
1 cup katakuriko (potato starch)
Vegetable oil, for frying
Chopped green onion and bonito flakes, for garnish
1 3-inch square piece dashi konbu (dried kelp)
3 cups water
1 cup katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
3 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft, squeezed dry and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon katakuriko dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
Cut tofu in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 8 cubes. Place pieces in large colander and let drain 1 hour.
Place konbu in pot with water over high heat. Just before water comes to boil, remove konbu and turn off heat. Stir in bonito flakes. Let sit 2 minutes.
Strain broth and return to pot. Stir in mirin and soy sauce; bring to simmer and let cook until reduced by about half (at least 10 minutes). Stir in katakuriko mixture and stir until slightly thickened. Stir in mushrooms.
Heat oil in skillet to 375 degrees. Dust tofu cubes lightly in potato starch. Fry in oil until light brown on all sides. Drain well on paper towels.
Pour sauce over top; garnish with green onions and a sprinkling of bonito flakes. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 360 calories, 15 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 800 mg sodium, 41 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 17 g protein
Analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Write “By Request,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.